Design

All research isn’t created equal—why you need strategy and usability interviews

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The secret to research goals that actually inform your product design process is getting specific about what you want to know. But different research lends itself to different budgets, timelines, and goals—so you can’t approach every method the same way.

Products already in the market require different forms of user research and usability testing than products not in market. In Module 2 of my self-paced online course, User Research Mastery, I cover exactly what you need to understand about your product before digging into the juicy stuff—actual research.

Example scenario from Module 2


All about strategy interviews

Before you start to build anything, you want to do research. Building before research means that you’re actually building blind, and that can lead to a lot of wasted time and money.

So if you don’t have a product or prototype that you can do usability testing with, what type of research do you do?

You want to do strategy interviews so you can equip yourself with all the knowledge and insight you need to make thoughtful and smart product decisions. Strategy interviews help you understand:

  • People, problems they have, and the impact of these problems
  • Challenges or opportunities with a topic or in an industry
  • The scope of a user’s need

Beyond these key pieces of information, your strategy interview will uncover one of the most important questions: whether or not people actually want a solution they’re also willing to purchase. As a designer, or marketer, or anyone involved in scaling the business, this is your golden ticket.

Related: See how Bank of America + IDEO applied design thinking to create an empathetic solution to savings

If the subjects’ feedback suggests the market would be receptive to your solution, the strategy interview will also help you reveal the why—a concept strongly championed by the world’s best design leaders.

So how do you actually run a strategy interview? By asking questions that will generate stories. Strategy interviews are conversations—your goal is to dig into a person’s needs and pain points as a listener. You want to ask questions that get them talking about past experiences.

“You should shoot to listen 80% of the time.”

Aim for questions like “tell me about the last time you… (e.g. purchased a flight online).” Then, just sit back and listen. You’ll hear the good, bad, and ugly. It works like magic each time.

Turning toward usability interviews

Usability interviews are outcome oriented—meaning we use them to validate if a product or service is functional. Usability interviews don’t have to be done on a finished product; I recommend testing prototypes too.

Related: 6 key things all UX designers should keep in mind

In these interviews, you’re looking for yes or no answers to some pretty important questions.

  1. Can people discover your product’s features on their own?
  2. Did the outcome of a task match what was described?
  3. Are there gaps in the experience?

To set the stage to uncover this information, and important sentiments and observations, identify specific tasks you want people to work through. Most importantly, make it clear there are no wrong answers—you’re not testing people, you’re testing the product.

Try easing into the interview by setting up a story for your test user. I find “Imagine you’re…” to be a good method for this. Once the person gets going, moving through screens or pages, kick back and listen. You should shoot to listen 80% of the time.

In fact, one of my best UX tips is, “Get comfortable being wrong.” By listening more than you speak, you’ll see your assumptions challenged at every turn.

“New ideas require that we get comfortable being fearless, exploring new ideas, and committing to validating those ideas through feedback and data from our customers.”

Yep, you guessed it—strategy and usability interviews yield exactly the kind of feedback you need to achieve your research goals and create better products.

Want to learn more about user research? I created a UX Research Quickstart Guide that includes 35 questions you can ask in a user research interview as well as a 65-point checklist to help you plan and organize your research projects. Plus, since you’re an InVision reader, I’m offering you 20% off my course, User Research Mastery—just request the guide to get the discount code!

Author

Sarah Doody, UX Designer

Sarah Doody is a User Experience Designer in NYC. She also publishes a popular weekly UX newsletter, The UX Notebook, and frequently writes about UX on her website. Follow her on Twitter @sarahdoody.

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